I wrote this post last holiday season, but thought I’d give you a little update. The girls requested that our Elf on the Shelf return again this year, and so far it’s been a success, with only one early-morning-oh-crap-I-forget-to-move-the-Elf moment. Both of my daughters are simultaneously fascinated with and mildly creeped out by our Elf. But I want to hear from you: have any of your kids been scared shitless by the Elf on the Shelf? What did you do? Here’s how our story began …
Friends, please don’t hate me, but I’m going to add another Elf on the Shelf post to the literally hundreds circulating out there this holiday season. Forgive me. We’ve read every angle, from parents who think the Elf is the best thing ever to happen to them, to people who think those parents are assholes, to the people who think the Elf-Haters are assholes. I’m here to lend a new perspective.
When my daughter was four years old, I was thrilled to learn of the existence of the Elf on the Shelf. In addition to being an undoubtedly excellent behavior modification strategy, it was another opportunity for me to manufacture family holiday magic- score!
Knowing that my daughter was sensitive and needed lots of preparation for excitement, I casually brought up the possibility of Santa’s elf staying with us to feel her out and gauge her reaction. She was enthusiastic, so we read the book. For some reason that I can no longer recall, she decided to name him Dopey.
After she went to bed, my husband and I gleefully perched Dopey on the only shelf in our living room (It seemed the only option- I’m a rule follower and don’t like to think outside the box. Or shelf.) and speculated on her reaction the next morning.
Well, there was no mistaking her response: Dopey scared the shit out of her.
As soon as she laid eyes on him, she hid under a blanket on the couch and refused to come out. What’s more, she insisted I accompany her everywhere in the house–especially the bathroom– for weeks. Weeks– after his hasty removal from the premises. “Dopey,” she would cry frantically when I would question her need for my presence.
Why was I surprised? Had I never met my daughter before? I knew her tendency to freak out over vivid visual and auditory stimuli, and let’s be honest- that elf is creepy as hell.
Fast forward 3 years. My daughter, now seven, hand-wrote a letter to Santa and placed it in the mailbox without allowing my husband or me to see it. After the deft interception before the mailman’s arrival, we opened it to see that, not only had she written a lengthy note, she’d included a gingerbread ornament from our tree as a gift to Santa. How sweet is that? She’d also requested that the Elf– none other than Dopey himself– return this year.
Did not see that coming. Santa of course replied, and said that when she was ready, she could ask her parents to read the book (which we kept for some ungodly reason, along with Dopey, whom I’d recently discovered in a box in the garage.) and he would know she was ready. And so we proceeded, reading the book to both girls and preparing for Dopey’s arrival.
By “preparing,” I mean that I nearly forgot the entire operation until my husband reminded me at the last minute, while my eager daughter prepared a wooden box for Dopey to use as a bed, a pillow and blanket for him to use, and a lantern complete with written operating instructions. I kid you not.
In her letter, in addition to welcoming Dopey and instructing him on how to best make use of the lantern, she implored him not to “make trouble.” I thought my heart would break. She also asked him not to be mad if her sister touched him- after all, she is only two years old! The other side of her sensitivity– the ingenuous, gorgeous empathy and earnestness– came through in full force.
The morning Dopey arrived was a success: there was no freaking out or hysteria at all! My two year old was equally delighted, and I admit I actually felt a bit excited that we could join the rest of the world in participating in this god-forsaken tradition.
For anyone else whose anxious, highly-sensitive child may have had a “bad experience” with the Elf, here is my 12 step program for recovering from Elf-terror and reintegrating him into your household in order to more sufficiently manipulate your children this holiday season. You’re welcome.
- Enthusiastically purchase your Elf on the Shelf and read the book to your children.
- Name the Elf and come up with a plan.
- Write out detailed ideas illustrating your creative elf-placing locations and whimsical elf-mischief possibilities.
- Present your Elf to your offspring.
- Ignore your own feelings about the disturbing appearance of said Elf and try to convince your terrified child that the Elf is her friend, here to help!
- Desperately assure your child that you will remove the Elf from your property- he will never be seen or heard from again! Just please come out of hiding, for the love of God!
- Plead with your child, and in a moment of true desperation, admit the truth: “He’s not a real Elf! I bought him at Barnes and Noble! I thought you’d like him! He’s just a toy- a fraud!”
- Dutifully accompany your traumatized child everywhere, enduring whimpers of the dreaded elf’s name whenever a complaint of fear is vocalized.
- Hide that goddamn book and doll where she will never, ever find it.
- Move on with your life, grateful that when you see photos of other enterprising parents who have undecorated their entire Christmas tree or toilet-papered their home in the name of the naughty elf, you have no part in this madness due to the fact that your child was scared shitless.
- Spend another year smugly mocking those idiots who have to move the Elf every night.
- When your child, now maturing and finding her courage, requests the Elf’s return, suck it up and play along. You had a good run.
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Awww poor thing. You know what I find hilarious is my mother had 3 of those elves long before that book and tradition ever came out. Ours sat in glass boots with their legs hanging out. This year I gave the last of them to my cousin who has finally had his first child with his second wife. He lost his first wife a few years ago and they could never have kids. I was thrilled to pass the last elf to him for his son. However, that being said I am ever so grateful this tradition was not around when my boys were young.
Yes- you are lucky! I love that you were able to share the elf with your cousin- how special!
When i had an elf on the shelf it scared my little sister when it apeard on her bookcase. She threw her pony toys at it it was kind of funny but not that funny
I can so see this happening at my house!! My daughter (6 now) has been through a variety of fears and anxieties and holidays bring out the more eccentric ones!! Always good to take a step back and see the humor after a failed attempt at introducing something fun and new. Thanks for these posts.
Thank you for that comment- it is good to try to find the humor in it- sometimes that takes some time, though! 🙂
Cracking up! The hiding under the blanket is HILARIOUS, but the note is what really did me in! 🙂 LOVE it!-Ashley
I know! The note kills me! Must keep forever… 🙂
Wow, you handled this beautifully. As another mother to a sensitive girl, I applaud you!
Thanks, Sarah, that means a lot!
So funny! Sorry that she was traumatized of course, but also am even more sorry you were forced to bring him back. I kind of lean toward the elf haters, but my kids have been REALLY into it this year, and it has brought a little Christmas magic into our house, which, for a grump like me isn’t a bad thing. Love it. 🙂
I’m with you- a little magic is a good thing. Seeing their reactions has made the hassle worth it!
That letter is such a gem. Keep it. Treasure it.
Am loving your honest 12 step list – you had me at #7! Yes do tell the whole Barnes and Noble truth – I always did and it got me out of so much hot water. My children could write a book on “mom’s harsh truths told to us to put us out of misery.”
Kelly, you are so right- I will definitely treasure that note! I think your kids’ book idea sounds like a winner!
This is the only elf post I have ever liked. Brava, my friend. I snorted at the line “Dopey scared the shit out of her.” Too, too funny!
Now THAT is high praise- glad you liked it! 😀
I’m just now considering the idea that my son might hear about the elf when he goes to school. We’re currently an Elf-less house and I’d like to keep it that way. He would be terrified of that guy (rightfully so).
I have wondered if the kids talk about their elves at school. Take my advice- stay Elf-free!
This was absolutely hilarious! I can’t wait to be a part of the fun!
It won’t be long!
Awww, such a sweet little kiddo! I have to admit I have not heard about elf on the shelf till I started blogging (yeah, I have been living under a rock). I searched for one in our malls unfortunately not one has them and I am not going to spend on buying them online as shipping to my third world country would cost a lot. So I guess there will be no elf in our house this year. 🙂
I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing! There are way better holiday traditions than the Elf!
Izzy is AWESOME. I hate the elf and adore this post “He’s a fraud!” hehe!!! That you actually make Dopey seem a little tiny bit appealing is either due to incredible writing or me getting soft in the head so that my belly has a buddy. I’m sure my head would not betray me the way my belly has so most excellent job!
SQUEE right back! I’m going to meet you IRL!!!
Ha! Thanks… And yes!!!! Next week!
Excellent 12 step program, Stephanie. Even better because I don’t have to take part in it! But I’m glad your daughters are enjoying Dopey – only one more week to go!
Thank goodness- we didn’t get started until this week, so it’s not nearly as painful as a full month!
So funny! I’ve read many things by parents saying their kids were totally creeped out by Big Brother watching them all the time. Last year was our first year doing the elf (I’m too cheap for the real one, so I bought a plush Hermie from the Rudolph movie). It worked great last year, but this year my kids have figured out “Hermie saw all the crap we pulled last year and we still made bank on Christmas, so screw it!” and it no longer has a behavior-modifying effect. Plus, I decided to incorporate Hermie with a tradition my parents had done for me and my sister when we were little where ‘elves’ brought little presents/candies each night for ALL OF EFFING DECEMBER … so now I not only have to move the damn elf every night, but I have to 1) remember to purchase enough little candies/trinkets at Target each week and 2) remember to place said gifts in their elf boxes each night. A lot of work for an atheist Christmas!!
Anyway, hilarious post ~ hope the elf experience goes well this year!
HAHA! No way! That IS a lot of work for an atheist at Christmas. Props to you for trying to make things magical! What will happen to Hermie next year, I wonder?…
My word, that is funny. From here. I’m sure it wasn’t funny when you were accompanying her to the bathroom every time.
And that note/setup she left for Dopey (great name) is awesome. I LOVE notes from little kids who are learning to spell and write.
Have fun with that elf this week!
You see, I didn’t write about it until 3 years later, so yeah- it’s funny to me NOW for sure… I know- the whole Dopey setup made me want to cry!
May I just say it? The elf is freaking creepy. She’s smart, that daughter of yours. 😉
The first time I’d heard of the Elf on the Shelf was during the Thanksgiving Day parade, and (not being a mom and being out of the loop of these things) had no idea this had become a tradition. I’m sorry the elf became a traumatizing experience for your daughter.
Growing up, I basically accepted the Rankin-Bass explanation that Santa had the magic snowball he peered into if he wanted to know what you were up to throughout the year, so I probably would have rolled my eyes at the idea of Izzy and his kind sitting around in random spots on a daily basis.
I also have the sad memory of being told by a classmate that Santa was not real ( I was around your daughter’s age at the time), so I’m not sure if I would have carried on the tradition of “Santa” if I had kids, since I did not want some Hildegarde Highcunt doing the same thing to one of my future offspring.
I hope yours was and still is a Merry Elf-less Christmas!
This is great Stephanie. Thanks for the tips. My little guy is hesitant about the elf too, and when I mentioned he’d be making his appearance any day now, Miles approached the idea with some trepidation. I’m going to try your ideas and see what happens!
Well, I’m not sure how truly *helpful* they are… but I definitely can empathize! I decided to follow my daughter’s lead and let her call the shots. Both my kids are excited about the Elf, but also a little nervous. Neither of them wants him to be super “naughty” and they’ve mandated that he stay out of their bedrooms! Good to have boundaries… 🙂
My daughter has never feared the Elf, but he did make her cry recently. Or I did, but I am blaming that freaking elf
Haha, I didn’t see this post last year. I’m on the fence myself. I wasn’t going to even consider it but then someone (who may or may not like me) just gave us one at Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if Z would have an anxious reaction or not. She always surprises me. So I don’t think I’m going to do it and not next year either unless she asks. Path of least resistance is my motto.